Universities Link Humanities With Science and Technology

They're getting free iPads. Students who participate in a new honors program in digital cultures and creativity at a university in Maryland this fall have been promised the tablet computers as part of the program's launch. This same institution also offers courses in electronic literature and new media that covers such areas as online books and electronic book readers.

"People go into humanities because they don't like technology, but today you really can't separate them," Program Director Matthew Kirschenbaum was quoted as saying in a July edition of the university's student newspaper, DiamondbackOnline. At this same institution, an institute for technology in the humanities works to create and preserve electronic literature, digital games and virtual worlds. The institute claims its home to an international group devoted to writing, publishing and reading electronic literature.

With the computer science and English departments, the institute has provided Book 2.0 students a prototype of an electronic reading device. Its audio archives include discussions related to the project as well as to mobile apps that support children's storytelling and a Smithsonian Art Museum alternate reality game. Organizations on and off college and university campuses, in fact, tie the humanities with technology as well as areas such as science.

An institute at a Virginia university, for example, partners with libraries, publishers, information technology companies and others on humanities computing initiatives, according to its website. The institute offers colleges and universities, as well as cultural, non-profit, government and business organizations, consulting, programming and data services in areas such as three-dimensional cultural heritage site computer modeling, Java and Perl programming and web databases, according to its website. Visitors to the site might access digital collections of African American poetry, early American fiction from authors such as Mark Twain, Louisa May Alcott and Harriet Beecher Stowe, as well as the English dramas of William Shakespeare and others. Digital audio databases include African American songs and American music from composers such as Duke Ellington and Cole Porter.

The Humanities and Technology Association, which isn't affiliated with any one institution, dates back to 1978 and promotes understanding the interaction between the humanities, science, engineering and technology. A Humanities and Technology Review journal published by the association includes explorations of Japan's cultural values and how its values influence development of its nuclear policy to the aesthetics of digital cinema and how movies such as "Miami Vice" exploit the technology's abilities and limitations to create new aesthetics. Another journal article addresses how computers can undermine or enhance student learning.

Industries want scientists who can understand an application's intellectual properties and issues of equity, human awareness perspective and more, according to co-founders of the Humanities, Arts, Science and Technology Advanced Collaboratory. This particular group formed in 2002 in response to the diminished role of humanities in the information age, according to its website. "Changes in the Information Age require us to think and act collectively to envision new ways of learning to serve the goals of a global society," the group's website notes.

In addition to courses such as English and literature, humanities degrees online and on campus might include classes in history, philosophy, culture, ethics and more. The co-founders of the Humanities, Arts, Science and Technology Advanced Collaboratory represent universities on the east and west coasts of the United States. In an essay citing the central place humanities studies have with regard to exploring the possibilities of technology's reach and implications, they noted that the humanities involve exploring meaning, value and significance and that humanists link the old and the new and then engage the best of both.

An engineering college at a Connecticut university this fall plans to launch a bachelor's degree in sustainability that includes studies in the humanities, according to a recent article in the Connecticut Business News Journal. The degree offering takes a holistic approach, its website suggests. Classes are to include global solutions to sustainability, research methods in sustainability and contemporary issues of art and the environment, the Business News Journal noted.